We spent two nights in a very quaint building that was built in 1640. The narrow circular staircase and slant to the floors bore out this fact.
Imagine carrying two suitcases up these stairs!
We had heard good things about the Cotswolds and were looking forward to seeing some part of the area. Our first impression was that they are indeed popular with tourists, since even in October we were hard pressed to find a parking spot on the street. The buildings in this area are made from Cotswold stone, which is lighter in color than what we had seen in other parts of the country. As we drove around, we also saw lots of tree-lined roads, cobblestone walkways, and houses with thatched roofs.
The names of the towns are so charming - Moreton-in-Marsh, Chipping Camden, Cheltenham, Farmington, and of course the Upper and Lower Slaughters. We walked between these last two towns and, as Rick Steves told us in one of his travel videos, gates around here have to be left unlocked for walkers to pass through. We saw the famous water wheel and also the "kissing gate" that is inscribed in honor of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
We had two enjoyable days here just mostly looking around.
We drove back to Oxford to return the car and to spend a few days exploring this historic setting. Our B&B was the most modern yet, with a real king-sized bed and actual room to walk around it. We were on a main road, which was handy for taking the bus to any destination we wanted to visit.
We took a walking tour of Oxford University on our first full day and were overwhelmed with information. A highlight was a visit to the Bodleian Library, where treasures on view included one of the original copies of the Magna Carta (damaged by mice in storage),
some of Shakespeare's original writing,
and a page from the original score of Handel's Messiah.
Being able to see these items was amazing. We also attended a lecture addressing food trends in Victorian times; so fun to attend an actual lecture at Oxford!
The buildings have incredible history; so much was thrown at us that we couldn't much remember what was what!
We walked along the Thames for a bit after another short bus ride. We could imagine punting along in the river, and witnessing crew races here.
Our next day was taken up with a visit to Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill. Blenheim is the residence of the Duke of Marlborough and is the only non-royal country house in England to hold the title of palace. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Shortly after we arrived at the palace, the power went out, due to an outage in the nearby town of Woodstock. It didn't affect our visit too much, except for closing an area of the residence that had interactive exhibits and closing down some cash registers in the cafe. We joined an interesting walking tour of the inside of the building and learned that, although Churchill was born here, he never actually lived here, among other things. It is a huge and magnificent building on extensive grounds.
The next day found us back at the train station (look at all the bikes commuters leave here!) on our way to our final stop in London.